A tight commercial real estate market in Wilmington is expected to get even tighter as businesses that were flooded or damaged need to find new space and others move to town in the wake of Hurricane Florence, brokers say.
The firms shopping for space in a lot of cases have been forced out of their previous locations because of temporary or permanent damage, while others are coming in with services people will need during storm recovery, said Hansen Matthews, partner in Wilmington-based commercial real estate firm Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Co.
"These folks are competing for space in a retail, light industrial and office market that was tight for space already," Matthews said Thursday.
He said leases already have been or are being negotiated for relocations of existing businesses, and four different companies have contacted his firm for 25,000 to 50,000 square feet of warehouse space, for lease terms anywhere from six months to three years, to bring in supplies and equipment to assist with rebuilding efforts.
Hill Rogers, broker in charge at Wilmington-based Cameron Management, said he has fielded six to eight calls or requests from people looking for space in the hurricane's aftermath.
"There is a lot of damage out there," he said.
Rogers said on a related note that his firm helped set up the Salvation Army in the former Harris Teeter store space at Ogden Plaza before the storm and put the Red Cross in some empty office space Thursday, both for about 30 to 60 days to perform tasks related to relief efforts.
Brokers aren't sure exactly what the future might hold for companies or organizations that have difficulty finding any space at all. Steve Hall, another partner in Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Co., said some people might end up working out of their homes who did not do so before the hurricane as options run out.
"There is a lot demand for short-term rental needs right now in office and industrial," Hall said. "Unfortunately, inventory was really low even before the storm."
Matthews said, "I think that people are just going to have to adapt. They're going to have to be more flexible in what's acceptable both in terms of location, condition, exposure, price, length of the lease, all those factors involved."
His prediction: "People were planing to build space already, and this boost in demand for space for between six months to three years will probably be the catalyst for them to take those plans off the shelf to the bank, to the contractor and build the space."
"Rates were rising a anyway," Matthews added. "This is going to give the rates more upward momentum and people are going to build."